Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus wanted to thank the state of Georgia for its support as customers, employees, and shareholders. He chose Atlanta as the site for the largest aquarium in the world and Heery to make it happen in record time. The 505,000 SF, $290 million aquarium features more than 100,000 aquatic creatures from around the globe in habitats created with more than eight million gallons of water.

Heery was retained as project manager/owners representative. Heery met the accelerated schedule required construction to start prior to completed drawings and involved more than 100 firms and 1,000 people on site at any given time. To better manage resources, Heery broke the aquarium project down into a dozen distinct smaller projects such as water treatment, individual galleries, parking deck, kitchen and theater.

Less than three years after opening, more than 6.9 million visitors had passed through the doors of the Georgia Aquarium. With so much interest from the public, the Georgia Aquarium decided that it was time to expand again. So, less than three years since it successfully saw the aquarium opened, Heery was back at work on new plans to make the world’s largest aquarium even larger. A thorough analysis was done to understand issues ranging from site capacity and pricing to animal and environmental requirements. The results led to Mr. Marcus’ decision to erect an 84,000-SF facility featuring bottlenose dolphins in a 1.8 million gallon exhibit with a gallery viewing area and a state of the art 1,800-seat performance theater.

Additional components of this program include the following:

  • From inception to opening day occurred in just 44 months, as opposed to the usual 84 months for other aquariums in the United States
  • Construction completed in just 28 months with conservation an important component of the project
  • A water-treatment plant in the facility that retreats all water every 60 - 80 minutes
  • The world’s largest window for the large open tank
  • A custom-made tile mural consisting of 850,000 tiles




Program Management


Atlanta, GA


589,000 SF; 1,628-car parking garage


2006, CMAA South Atlantic Chapter Project Achievement Award 2006, Project Management Institute Runner Up for International Project of the Year 2010, Southeast Construction Magazine, Judges Award 2011, CMAA Project Achievement Award